The Lord of the Rings trilogy** came out in an audio book format from audible recently. This matters because I still haven’t finished reading them. I know I lose some street cred with some of my friends by admitting this, but in my defense when I was young (when most of these same friends read Tolkien for the first time) I’d never even heard of the Lord of the Rings.
I have so much reading I do for work, school and professional development that it’s hard to rationalize time for reading fiction. In addition, my fairly addictive personality makes it hard, when I do read fiction to put it down like a responsible adult when it’s time for something else. I get drawn into a story and, if the book is any good, I want to keep reading until it’s done. The only fiction I’ve read (not counting the business fables that Patrick Lencioni writes) in the last few years was the Hunger Games trilogy, which I devoured quickly over a few days on my kindle. I was able to get away with this because I happened to be on a non-work-related trip without my wife that had significant down time and airport time and work wasn’t crazy at that moment.
So how to keep fiction in its box but still enjoy it? Enter audio books.
My wife and I started out in our marriage trying to read to each other in the evening. It worked really well when I read, but not so much when she did. Why? Because I fall asleep when someone is reading to me. Worse than that, when she’d check, 10-15 minutes after I dozed off, I could act awake and tell her what she’d just read but have no recollection of either saying so or any of the reading in the morning. The Two Towers (the only part of the trilogy I’ve read in book form to date, and only sort of) took forever because of this and I think I had to read more than my share. (As an aside I still haven’t seen the movie for The Return of the King because of some of the liberties the producers took with Two Towers. I’m over it now and plan to go back and watch all three after I finish the audio books.) So the habit we’d tried to build early just didn’t work because I fell asleep so quickly when she read.
This same thing (falling asleep when being read to) is now a gift. It’s a gift because I can download audio books (fiction even!) from Audible.com onto a mobile device and carry them with me. At night, if TC dozes off and I’m still not as sleepy as I should be, I put one on, set the sleep timer for 15 minutes, and enjoy some well-written fiction. This is also a huge help when I’m travelling, like this week, because I just don’t sleep well when my wife isn’t with me. (I don’t know how I’ll survive the international trip later this year.) And I get to enjoy fiction while keeping it in a box. Sure there are times where the action in a book is intense enough that it makes it hard to get to sleep and I keep starting that sleep timer over and over again, but a lot less often than when the lights are on and the book or kindle is in my hands and my eyes are open. Audio books have been a wonderful gift for me.***
And now I’m getting to enjoy Tolkien, finally. I’m about 20% through Fellowship of the Ring, and really enjoying it, 15-30 minutes at a time. And while I’m travelling this week and sleeping in hotels that number goes up a little for me, which isn’t an entirely bad thing. Not sleeping is bad, but if it gets offset with a great literary experience, how can that be a bad thing?
** I know, for your purists, that it’s not really a trilogy but a single novel broken into three units, Just needed to make sure you true believers knew that. 🙂
*** There are audio books, and audio books, by the way. I’m a purist and don’t by dramatized fiction or abridged versions. I want to hear the whole book. If you try this for yourself, keep an eye out, because with some authors the abridged copies are the more plentiful.